Our aversion to doing anything truly different is often a source of trouble. We are attached to long-established tax and spending priorities that have created a huge gap between income and outgo. We preserve entitlements built on the thinking of the 1930s and 1960s. We insist on keeping military commitments we made half a century ago, oblivious to new circumstances.
Obama deferred to our conservative inclination when he rolled out the best advocate for his retention: Bill Clinton. The implicit message was that Obama could restore the Eden we inhabited in the 1990s. Clinton, of course, was ferociously controversial in office, but his approval rating is now 69 percent -- higher than it ever was during his presidency.
Romney spent the latter part of the race minimizing his differences with Obama. He said he would repeal Obamacare -- except, you know, all the appealing parts. He faulted the president's Iran policy but couldn't really explain how his would be different. He was moderate with an M, as in mushy.
He did pick a running mate who seemed willing to shake things up. Paul Ryan has a budget plan that would downsize the federal government and overhaul Medicare. But Ryan was not allowed to barnstorm the country on behalf of that plan. He spent his time talking about the need to restore the economy to the way it used to be.
Even the tea party hero was keen on reassuring those worried that he would turn things upside down. When it came to seniors who cherish Medicare as it is, Ryan always stressed, "What we're saying is no changes for anybody 55 and above."
Most Americans didn't vote for Ryan. They did, however, vote in favor of no changes for anyone 55 and above -- or anyone under.